Thursday, December 29, 2016

Tip Thursday - Public Speaking

Whenever possible avoid using a Lectern when speaking in public. I know that it's a great place to hold your notes but it also serves as a barrier between you and your audience, which can make you appear more distanced and separate from them.

Additionally, since it blocks the view of much of your body, your audience is unable to 'read' much of your body language, making it far more difficult for them to determine your credibility and, therefore, the believability of your message.

The more open you appear the more they will come to trust the message you are delivering. This is a lesson Nixon learned (belatedly) in his first on-air debate with Kennedy, but one you can begin using immediately to up your presence whenever you speak in public.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tip Thursday - Learning

The very best way to learn new information is using a technique called 'Distributed Practice', also known as Spaced Repetition. Rather than trying to learn all you can in one big session it is far more effective to segment your learning into smaller sessions or chunks.

This is not necessarily how our school systems are designed, but all research supports this as being the far most effective way to learn. This outstrips the more popular methods of learning like cramming, highlighting, re-reading, or summarising.

So, the next time you have a lot of new information to learn, consider switching things up and studying more frequently over a larger period of time rather than intense study the night before. You will learn the material better and retain it far longer if you do!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Choose Your Mood

How often have we sought to excuse our behaviour with the explanation of "Sorry, but I'm in a bit of a mood today', as though we had no option?

Being 'in' a mood implies that the mood itself has control over our behaviours and actions. Think about how often people will allow a 'mood' to determine the course of their day, colouring the nature of all their interactions. Telling ourselves that we're happy, sad, tired, depressed, angry, frustrated... becomes the glasses through which we view the remainder of our day. We allow our 'mood' to have free reign over our feelings and behaviours.

However, we create our reality with our thoughts. Unfortunately, roughly 80% of most people's thoughts are negative. Given that we typically have between 35,000 and 90,000 thoughts a day we can be priming our beliefs with a lot of negative messaging.

We know that we are mentally wired into what science refers to as a Negativity Bias. This bias served us well when we were primitives seeking only to survive, when every rustle in the bushes was likely to be something trying to eat us. We needed the negativity bias to keep us on the defensive. However, it does not serve us nearly as well today.

Our negative thoughts take only 90 seconds to travel through our brains and trigger a physiological response. Cortisol, the stress hormone, and Adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone, get released into our systems causing us now to physically experience a reaction to the negative thought resulting is us now 'feeling' as bad as we thought we would. What's important to note though is that it was our thoughts that drove the response; we did indeed create our reality with our thoughts.

If so, then could we not learn to think differently? Respond differently? Choose different?

Life is nothing if not all about choices. We choose what to eat, what to wear, what to drive, where to live. But we also choose how to react to situations. We choose how we let others affect us. We choose to be in a good or a bad mood. We can choose to be controlled by our moods or to instead control our moods. Rather than being controlled by our moods we need to recast them into something we need, something we can use, something that serves us.

Start each day by setting a firm intention for how you will approach that day, allowing it to seep into your unconscious mind. Drive the attitude and mood you want to experience. Your brain will react to the thoughts you implant the same as they would an unconscious one. Use your conscious mind to override your negative biases and programming by driving what you want to experience each day.

Given a choice I would always want to choose happy over sad, energetic over tired, strong over weak, empowered over ineffectual. Your choices are your own, of course, but if choosing differently than this you might want to question why.

The level of success you enjoy will ultimately be determined by the choices you make.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Tip Thursday - Time Management

Beware the impact on your time of the Energy Vampires. These are the people that will suck up all of your time with little return. They will often disguise their needs as 'urgent' in a desire for you to drop what you're doing and come to their aid.

Stop reinforcing their behaviour by setting time aside for them. If their request is not an urgent company-critical issue then offer a polite - "I'm under a tight deadline right now and can't help out this week".

Don't allow these people to compromise your schedule and your needs. Their time consumption can be insatiable. Become more conscious of putting your needs first and let the Vampires Beware!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Girls Just Want to Have Fun... Or Do They?

According to a Robert Half International survey, of Vice-Presidents and Personnel Directors at 100 of America's largest corporations, 84% of respondents said they thought that employees with a sense of humour did a better job than those with little or no 'sense of fun'. In a similar survey of CEO's, by Hodge-Cronin & Associates, 98% of respondents stated a definitive preference for job candidates with a good sense of humour.

Great!  Don't we all want to work with people that are positive and upbeat? But wait... research conducted by Connie Glaser (of 'Swim with the Dolphins' fame) showed that CEO's indicated that one of the key qualities they felt prevented women from getting ahead on the job was a LACK of a sense of humour.

So... research is saying that a sense of humour is a requirement for advancement into the senior ranks AND that most CEO's feel that women lack one.

How can this be? When I'm out with a group of my girlfriends for an evening we are often doing 'mascara-checks' on each other after laughing so hard we were crying... and these women are all highly successful business women. It can't just be me that has downright funny female friends... can it?

The catch phrase in my description of my evening out though is that I was out for an evening 'with the girls'. There were no men there. Does this have an impact? Yes, absolutely.

As young girls women are often led to believe that they shouldn't (or can't) tell jokes. Therefore, social conditioning begins working on us, leading us to suppress our sense of humour. Many women, when questioned, say that they will often hold back on the humour at work because it's unladylike or because people won't take them seriously if they are seen as being funny. The third reason often given is that men don't seem to get their jokes!

There are really two parallel issues running here. First, that women tend to hold back on the humour because they work too hard to be taken seriously to jeopardize it for the sake of a laugh and, secondly, that men often don't realize 'when' women are being funny because the humour is feminine, not masculine, in nature.

The challenge for women becomes immediately apparent though when reviewing what the first two surveys described above tell us. Men don't see or appreciate women's humour and therefore women may not be promoted as fast or as far as a result. What then is a woman who wants to be viewed as a professional, and be taken seriously around the boardroom table, to do?

First of all, women need to learn the fine art of tightrope walking. Unfortunately the world of work is still predominantly masculine directed, meaning that the most commonly understood communicative style is male. Therefore it will usually prove easier for a woman to adapt her style to match.* This does not mean abandoning all sense of self in the process but it does mean making some concessions to the male sense of what's funny.

The key strategy? Laugh. Recognise that laughing has less to do with the actual joke telling (lots of men can't tell jokes either) but it has everything to do with building camaraderie and a feeling of connection.

The good news is that because of the strong stereotypical belief that women (as a whole) aren't funny, you don't have to go for the big belly laugh to be seen as having a sense of humour. Even if you aren't great at telling a funny story (personally I never remember the punchline to jokes) relaxing enough to share in someone else's ability to do so, and responding positively to it, will go a long way to helping lighten your perception and profile.

*please note that I said that it is often 'easier' for a woman to adapt her style, not that I agree it is right, fair or just for her to have to do so in an effort to be promoted.  This is a different issue!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Tip Thursday - Body Language

A quick little sign to watch for when conversing with someone is the Lip Pull, which is when a person not only purses their lips but pulls them quickly off to one side of the face. This is a quite dramatic facial gesture, readily seen by others.

Typically this is a quick gesture that lasts for just an instant, though it could be held a couple of seconds. The lip pull tends to mean that the person dislikes or disagrees with what is happening or being said. It can therefore be a very telling gesture, letting you know when someone is unhappy, even when they are trying to hide it from you!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Establishing your Leadership Credibility

In order to be offered a role as a leader you must first be seen by others to BE a leader. You must
demonstrate leadership capability before others are likely to entrust a leadership role to you. However, it may sometimes feel like a chicken and egg situation - How can I demonstrate my skills as a leader if I don't have people to lead?

Think instead of establishing your credibility as a potential leader by demonstrating the key qualities and characteristics that have universal appeal in our leaders. Ask what you would look for in a leader and ensure that you demonstrate those same traits.

There is always a leap of faith in the promotional process, assumptions that are being made regarding capabilities that are extrapolated from observed behaviour. Increase your odds by being more strategic about the behaviours your audience observes in you.

When it comes to building your leadership credibility note that consistency is key. It is the behaviours that others observe over and over again that they will come to trust are representative of 'you'. Doing something once, no matter how great, could be viewed as an exception, not the rule. When it comes to your credibility and reputation it is therefore the every-day consistent behaviours that carry the greatest weight.

Take a look at what your behaviours, demonstrated each day, say about you and your leadership potential. If they are not telling the story you want told it is time to start re-writing. To help get you past any writer's block you may experience, here are 5 leadership behaviours you may want to ensure are in evidence...

  1. Walk Your Talk.  Think carefully about what your expectations would be of your direct reports and ensure that you are modelling those behaviours. People are far more likely to trust in leaders who lead by example. Ensure that you are setting the example you would want others to follow.
  2. Deliver on your Promises. Make your word your bond. Over-deliver, don't over-promise. Big words have no meaning in the long run if they are not backed up by the promised results. People will come to trust and believe in you if you ensure that you always live up to your agreements.  Under promising and over delivering is a sure-fired way of building customer loyalty.
  3. Engage Others. Working as a lone wolf may serve to highlight your personal capabilities but it does nothing to demonstrate your ability to lead. Successful leaders can't lead from a bubble. They interact, they engage, they motivate. Show others your ability to engage and get work done through others to highlight your leadership potential.
  4. Listen.  Don't make the mistake of thinking that you must be the most-heard voice around the table to be seen as a leader. A critical skill of successful leaders is their ability to listen to the opinions and expertise of those around them. Listening is a critical skill of leaders and a skill that seems to be in short supply in the work world of today. Cultivate your listening skills today to strengthen your leadership skills of tomorrow.
  5. Take a stand. Leaders need to make decisions. This means that they need to be able to take a stand on issues and stay the course when needed. Decision making is not always easy but the one guarantee I have for you is that it gets no easier as you move up the ladder. The decisions get more complicated and the potential impact far greater. If no one sees you taking a stand on issues today they are not going to believe that you will be any more likely to do so in the future. 
Your credibility is built over time, which means there is no time like the present to begin building yours. Like any structure, it is built one brick or board at a time. Anything you do that supports the leadership message adds to your building, anything you do that works against it takes away. How quickly your building and message come together is dependent upon the consistency of your positive behaviours. 

As much as the list I provided above highlights behaviours we would like our leaders to demonstrate it is likely is also a list of behaviours that would serve us all. Walk our talk, live up to our agreements, be respectful of those around us, listen to what people have to say and be prepared to take a stand on things that matter. Certainly a recipe for success, but not a bad recipe for living.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tip Thursday - Time Management

Generally speaking, you can tell how much money a person makes by observing how they respect their time. If you want to increase your earning potential then you need to follow the 3 P's of Time Management... Protect your time, Preserve your time, Prioritize your time.

It is important to become outcome driven, understanding what you want to get out of the time you are investing in an activity. The clearer you are about this, the less likely you are to get pulled off track by someone else's needs. This doesn't mean you never offer help and support to others, but you need to be prepared to make a clear distinction about what you have time for. You will never have enough time for everybody, but you will always have time for somebody. Prioritize yours.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Values & Beliefs - a Call to Action

Our values form the foundation for not only how we ultimately view the world around us, but the
yardstick by which we measure everything - our relative success, happiness, etc. Your values, what is important to you, will differ from mine if only as a result of the fact that you and I are different. Each of us faces a similar challenge though, to try to live a life that is in balance and alignment with our values. The closer our actions 'fit' our core values the better we will feel about ourselves, our relationships and our lives.

The  bigger the gap though the more likely we are to experience dissatisfaction and distress. A disconnect between our values and our actions leads to a sense of disconnect with our lives which, in turn, can lead to lacklustre on-the-job performance.  It is challenging to remain focused and motivated to engage in work and activities that fail to support our personal values. The more dissonance we experience the greater our motivational challenges likely will prove.

It is this gap, between our actions and values, that leads us to choose (whether consciously or unconsciously) to under-perform. The resistance we experience comes from that values disconnect. Generally speaking there tends to be two key reasons for the existence of the gap. Either...

  • We have no clue as to what we truly value in life and are therefore living in a hit and miss fashion, sometimes gaining satisfaction with a hit, sometimes being dissatisfied because we miss, or...
  • We have chosen to live, whether consciously or unconsciously, by someone else's prescribed values
There may be other reasons but these two are key and often interrelated. If I am unable to articulate what my key values are in life, what is truly important to me, I am far more likely to be swayed by someone else who has clarity, whether that is a relative, friend, celebrity or corporation. The difficulty with this lies in what happens internally to me should there be a gap between my true values and my adopted ones. If they are out of sync I will likely experience dissonance and discomfort.

Someone else's value may be a more positive, powerful and fulfilling value than my own, but if I haven't taken the time to consciously acknowledge and challenge the validity of my own limiting values and beliefs, and replace them with the stronger and more positive one, then I will still continue to experience that sense of dissatisfaction with my life. 

Unfortunately, we have a tendency to wait until we are at a 'low point' in our lives and emotions to take stock of our lives. Why wait for that? Work now to ensure that you have a clear and conscious understanding of your personal values by questioning the beliefs you hold. What are the beliefs you hold that serve to influence the choices you make, the behaviours you engage in?

All too often we act in ways that support beliefs we feel we 'should' have, regardless of whether or not those beliefs support our values. We are guided by the opinions of others more than we are guided by our own internal interests, wants and beliefs. Getting in touch with what really matters to you will highlight how much of your life you have devoted to satisfying other people's values versus your own.

Once you are clear about what truly matters to you, what you value, you need to reconcile the choices you have made in your life with your values. How much do those choices work in support of your values, how much do they pull you away from them? Are there gaps that you need to work at narrowing to increase your comfort and self-satisfaction?

I have had clients who discovered a great dissatisfaction in their lives because...
  • they had bought a 'big' house in a prestigious area because that was where someone of their level and stature 'should' live, but paying that big monthly mortgage meant little money left over for travel and adventure, both of which they valued highly
  • they worked 60+ hour weeks trying to satisfy a parent and make them proud, rather than living to their own value of what being a 'good' parent to their own children meant to them
  • they had always wanted to start their own business but never attempted it because others around them didn't think they had what it takes to make it
What values and beliefs do you have that you are not living to? 
What would your life look like if you did? 
What's stopping you from taking action?

For those of you hesitating to take the action you need, Stephen Levine offers the following words, to give you perspective and to take that first step...
If you had an hour to live and could only make one phone call... Who would you call, What would you say, And why are you waiting?


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Tip Thursday - Public Speaking

We all get nervous at times. However, it is generally our 'awfulizing' of an event that generates our negative emotions. (Awfulizing - all the self talk that highlights how awful we are likely to be at something).

There are lots of ways that you can reframe your thinking to help shift your mindset to success and positivity. Today's tip comes to us from Muhammad Ali. He knew that, before entering the ring for a fight, he had to be in  positive mindset. He had to believe fully in himself. His ritual, before each fight, was to ask himself if he had trained as hard as he possibly could, if he had done his best. Answering yes allowed him to relax because, whatever the outcome, he knew he had prepared the best he could.

Seems to have worked well for him...

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Stories We're Told

Most of us can think back and recall warm moments when we were young, sitting cuddled on a parent's lap while they read to us. As adults we can also remember replaying those same moments with our own children or with beloved nieces or nephews. What is it that we were sharing with these children of ours? Warmth? Love? Caring? A love of books? Perhaps all of these elements. Interestingly, though, we may have also shared more than we intended, especially when it came to shaping the minds and belief systems of our young daughters and nieces.

A 12 year study was conducted of top award-winning children's books. The study was undertaken to review the hidden messages that we inadvertently communicate to our children. The results?

  • On average, there was only one female character for every three male characters
  • There was only one female 'leader' character to every ten male 'leader' characters
  • There were over 100 different occupations that were held by the male characters while there were only 50 different occupations held by the female characters
  • The five top female occupations in the children's books?
    • Housewife
    • Witch
    • Dancer
    • Singer
    • Artist
Other favoured female occupations? You have to know that teacher and princess were in the top ten!

Now, think back to your favourite stories from your childhood. How correct is this study? If you're like most of the women we've spoken to, the above figures are a fairly accurate reflection of the stories they were told when young. Most of the women remember best the stories of Snow White and Cinderella. In each story the female lead character was a victim that needed 'rescuing'. By a prince, no less.

How too did these stories impact the perceptions and expectations of others around us? One female senior executive shared her struggle to 'make it' in the world of engineering.
"What was most interesting to me was not the resistance that I got from the men in my classes or from the work-world. I expected that. It was the resistance that I got from my mother and grandmother. The field that I had chosen for myself just didn't fit with their expectations. They had wanted me to be a teacher. It's funny now though. The aspect of my job that I enjoy the most is coaching and mentoring young women in engineering. Guess I'm teaching after all!"
This is an example of a woman that fought against some of the stories she was told as she grew up. How many of us though still hold many of those stories in our heads, measuring ourselves against them each day? How often do we come up lacking?

Think of our seeming need to express and measure our womanhood by the cleanliness of our homes or the number of after-school activities our children are engaged in. How many of us think we are somehow lacking if we 'fail' to make home-cooked meals for our families, feeling guilt overcome us each time that 'Martha' appears on screen?  After all, baking from scratch is 'A good thing' right?

Whatever happened to telling our daughters about women that struggled to manage raising three kids and hold a full-time job? A woman that might not have managed to have the house perfectly in order, the smell of fresh bread baking when others awoke or a drink in hand for hubby when he came home, but a woman that managed to have a hug and kiss for her kids when she saw them at the end of their school day, despite having gone to work with baby spit-up on her collar, getting yelled at by the boss for something he forgot to do, putting a run in her hose while trying to juggle two sacks of groceries and the dry cleaning out of the car, while mentally wondering what would defrost quickly enough to feed everyone?

Spend a few moments right now thinking about the stories you hold in your head that create images of perfection that just don't fit with life today. I don't mean your life, I mean anyone's life! What ideals are you holding yourself to that leave you feeling like you're always falling short, despite all of your best efforts?

Only by coming to understand what these myths and stories are can we begin to refute their relevance to our lives. Once we acknowledge the stories we're still holding onto and the fallacies they represent can we then recognise and appreciate in ourselves how much we've done and continue to do.

Ultimately, it's up to us, because there is no fairy godmother or knight on a white horse in our world folks. We need to consciously create the standards we're trying to live up to and not be driven by comparisons to some story we were told by others. We need to start telling ourselves better and more realistic stories because I'm willing to bet that even Cinderella had trouble fitting into that damn show after she turned 40!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Tip Thursday - Uncovering Purpose

Having a purpose, having a passion for what we do, is essential to our long-term success... at
anything!  Often we are led astray with the promise of big money, a big sounding deal, a big title. We become disheartened and disillusioned though when the positive feelings from these 'big' ticket items fade. To help you re-find, and redefine your purpose, ask yourself... If money was not an issue, what would you choose to do? Does what you are currently doing resemble this at all? In what way(s)? And... if not... why not?

Sometimes uncovering your truth is all about asking yourself the right questions.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Goldilocks Success Principles

Although Goldilocks may not be the model of 'Success' that would first come to mind, she had one clear insight that we could all benefit from. She was a strong proponent of the value of recognising when things were 'just right'. For those of us striving to achieve a given level of success in our careers and lives, the concept of 'just right' is an important one to integrate into our existing strategies. Often we mistake being successful with requiring who we are and what we do being the 'best', with 'best' being a euphemism for 'perfect'.

However, it is often the bid to be perfect that creates a vision of an unobtainable goal, limiting our success. Focusing instead on being more successful allows for even small achievements to count, each of which, when combined with other small gains, may serve to move us forward exponentially.

Making a conscious effort to be perfect at everything we do can serve to delay, if not deter, us from achieving. The ideal of perfect is a near impossible standard to meet, considering we will almost always believe that we could have given or done more, if allotted more time, money, support, resources, education, etc. Who wouldn't agree that they couldn't have done 1% more?

That 1% is enough to keep you from earning the Perfect title! It's enough to label your accomplishments 'less than perfect', if only to yourself. Many will find that they hesitate to take action if they believe their first efforts will likely fall short of that perfect mark. Thus they have lost before they start. Not trying prevents them from learning and developing new skills, from moving forward through achieving even small wins and successes.

How many times have you seen someone receive accolades for a project that you felt fell short of your standards? Not perfect by your definition but good enough to gain them credit and recognition. It essence it was 'just right'. Take a moment to think about what 'just right' brought them...

  • Likely the same recognition, rewards and reputation boost that you received from your last 'perfect' project
  • Less time spent on the completion of the assignment that they were then able to spend on completing other projects, or to focus on themselves, their family, their friends
  • Less stress, given they were not agonizing over the need to be perfect or to having to hand in something they felt was less than perfect
  • They felt good about what they accomplished and were able to celebrate its 'successful' completion rather than stressing over the elements they couldn't get to due to budget or time constraints
In essence, letting go of the need for perfect frees you mentally, physically and emotionally, enabling you to accomplish more, to be and feel more successful. Consider the following tips to help you with your next project.
  • Take a look at the goals and milestones you have established and define levels of performance. If you have perfectionist tendencies you likely have already identified the 'ideal' for each milestone.  Now add to it defined performance levels that aren't perfect but that are sufficient to meet the needs and expectations of others.  In essence, create a vision of the 'just rights', the 'good enoughs'.  Establishing this level up front gives you a clear and okay fallback position for when life intervenes and prevents 'perfect' from happening.  Setting those levels upfront gives you the permission to use them. Creating them after the fact will always leave you feeling like you failed.
  • Try using someone else's yardstick instead of your own to help you gain perspective on what measures others establish. The insights from others may help you to establish your just right/good enough mark.If you find you are uncomfortable with a 'just right' goal that someone else establishes then use it as a minimum level of achievement and set levels of performance in staged levels of achievement beyond this point.  These additional levels then become your 'just right plus 10%', your 'just right plus 20%'.  You might then discover that you can feel pretty good at letting go of a project at 'just right plus 15%', giving you a lot more flexibility than always having to achieve  50% more than everyone else.  What could you do with the gift of time that extra 35% represents?
This isn't settling, it's called being strategic. If putting an additional 35% of effort into something will not net you at least 35% more in gains you are wasting your effort. Your time and effort are not limitless commodities. Learning to assign your efforts and time appropriately is what effective time management and, ultimately, your success is dependent upon.  

Goldilocks knew more than simple break and enter techniques! She knew that recognising when something was 'just right' was a form of perfectionism all its own!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Tip Thursday - Influence

What you expect often influences and changes what actually and ultimately happens. Your expectations of outcomes leads you to interact differently and is often a fundamental component of ensuring that the outcome you expected occurs. For many situations though, expectancy is a non-conscious process.

The classic study in this phenomena was in 1968 where researchers split students into two groups - High IQ and Low IQ. Teachers were told which students belonged to which groups but no one else was informed, including parents and the students themselves. After 8 months the High IQ group performed remarkably well on tests while the Low IQ group performed poorly.  About what you would expect.

The twist though was that ALL students had been RANDOMLY assigned to the groups. Membership in either group had no reflection on actual IQ scores. The only variable was the expectation of the teacher. The teacher had different expectations of the two groups and those expectations began to subtly alter and shift the actual performance of the students themselves.  Pretty powerful. Expectation is therefore a powerful precursor of outcome and, ultimately, of success or failure.

Monday, November 7, 2016

How to Create Instant Rapport

For most of us, making connections with others is never easy.  They take time, which is definitely in
short supply during events such as networking gatherings.  As a result, we leave the evening with a few business cards clutched in our hand but little real feeling that we made any kind of lasting impression, let alone a real connection.

However, there are many times and circumstances over our careers where the need to form connections quickly would serve us.  We are far more likely to get hired in interviews if we are able to establish rapport, more likely to make the sale, more likely to get the big assignment or promotion. What we lack is the time we usually spend in creating shared experiences with others to establish that connection.  That`s where strengthening our ability to establish Rapport, to create a sense of familiarity where none previously existed, would serve us. 

There is interesting research out there that shows quite clearly exactly what we need to do to form instant rapport with someone. I feel it necessary to share with you first though that this is going to fly in the face of everything you have been told in the past.  You know, the advice of what topics to steer clear of (like politics and religion), to only say positive things, to keep things light and upbeat. As it turns out, talking with people about these `safe` topics may help you form connections, but nothing as quick or as strong as...


Yep, the number one most effective way to form instant rapport with someone is to say something negative about someone else. Gossip that drives a revelation of a shared negative attitude will typically result in a strong emotional bond. What`s interesting is the `why` behind its effectiveness.

Gossip is usually around someone who is a perceived threat in some way, however large or small. This has been going on since caveman days where all perceived threats were taken seriously. It was a life and death issue back then. As a result, sharing information about those potential threats was a critical safety need for us and our tribe. Our brains are still hardwired to serve and protect us and therefore we respond to shared information and gossip about potential threats.

When first meeting someone we are obviously not privy to information about their personal internal competition but the gossip we share need not be about someone we know personally. It could be about a public or political figure. Since we don`t know them well we speak instead about specific traits they exhibit, policies, actions they have taken, behaviour they have engaged in. 

The common advice given is to find shared experiences to explore with the other party. Perhaps reference pictures or books they have in their office. However, the positive experiences are those that are typically readily shared. They have spoken to many about them and, as a result, connections don`t hold firm. 

People don`t tend to put their negative beliefs on display. Therefore, when we discover something the other party doesn`t like about someone else, it`s a real discovery. This is not something they share openly or with as many people which means you`ve instantly become part of a much smaller and more exclusive group of people. 

We all have a strong tendency to seek out information that confirms what we already believe to be true, rejecting information that is in conflict with it. If you tell people that what they know to be right is indeed right, they will feel more connected to you.

Although constantly gossiping about others is not a good long term success strategy, know that a few well placed negative comments early on in a conversation may go a long way to establishing a connection and providing an opening to continue the conversation. And really, all we`re typically looking for is the time needed for us to really share who we are and what we`re all about.

As it turns out, contrary to the belief that we should steer clear of discussing politics in any first meetings, it may have just held the secret to creating instant rapport with our audience. After all, who doesn`t have a negative comment or two they could share about politicians these days?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Tip Thursday - Body Language

When giving stand up presentations, people are often unsure of what to do with their hands.  Here is where the Clinton Box comes in.  Bill Clinton, back in the 90's, was known for not always using his gestures effectively - and was quickly told to keep his gestures above the waist and below his shoulders. Additionally, for groups of less than 50, his gestures should also not extend very far beyond the width of his shoulders. This is a speaker's 'safe' zone for gesturing. In effect... don't touch anything above your shoulders and certainly nothing below your waist!

Bill went on to be a very polished and effective speaker but the Clinton Box was born from his tendency to gesture 'outside of the box', getting himself into some difficulties with his audience and, in particular, the press.

Monday, October 31, 2016

3 Top Body Language Tips for Interviews

When it comes to interviews most prospective candidates invest their time in identifying the success stories to share and in committing them to memory.  A clean suit, a few small talk topics and they are ready to go.

Those who are more savvy to how decisions actually get made though know to also pay attention to what their body language is telling others. They know that it is not just what they are saying but how they are saying it that influences how the interviewer will view their responses. Although there are certainly numerous behaviours you could engage in that could help to support the stories you share, here are my top 3 'must do' body language tips to help you appear confident, capable and infinitely hire-able'.

1.  Posture.  Ever since Amy Cuddy's infamous TED talk on power poses, there has been an increased focus on the positive effects of adopting a more powerful pose.  However, here I want to focus on the more common and practical elements of posture.  I find that most people are conscious of trying to maintain better posture by keeping their shoulders back and their chin up.  However, they do so while rounding out their lower back.  They sit and stand in this softened posture, effectively reducing their height, projected energy and perceived confidence.

In your interviews it is important that you come across as someone that will get things done. This requires you to project energy, which is difficult to do from a compressed or slumped position. Extending upward through the lower back is all that it takes to affect a more positive pose, strengthening the message that you are someone that will hit deadlines, push projects through and make things happen.

2.  Eye Contact.  There is a lot of misinformation out there about eye contact.  I find my audiences are often under the impression that strong and direct eye contact means constant and unbroken eye contact.  It doesn't.  Constant eye contact can, and will, prove intimidating.  Although different cultures and countries will have their own acceptable levels of eye contact, in North America we typically fall into maintaining eye contact about 70% of the time during conversations.

This means that it is perfectly acceptable to look away while you gather your thoughts.  What does become important about eye contact is the need to maintain it comfortably.  If your eyes dart about or you are only maintaining eye contact for a second or two at a time you will appear nervous, insincere or uncomfortable. The believability of your stories will likely suffer as well.  Instead, maintain eye contact for 4-6 seconds before smoothly breaking away, looking to the side to gather your thoughts, rather than up or down, and then confidently re-engaging.

Most people will find it easier to maintain eye contact when they are in listening mode than when speaking.  This is fine and helps to show interest.  When speaking though, it is important that you at least appear confident about the content you are sharing.  Keeping the chin up heightens the perception of confidence and looking away laterally when you need to break eye contact will help you to do this.  Note that glancing away to take notes or taking advantage of when they do also helps give you a bit of an 'eye contact break'.

3.  Hand Gestures.  The main things to consider about your gestures is that they should be smooth, controlled and purposeful.  For most discussions your gestures should take place within your own personal space, which keeps them size-appropriate.  Ensure that you keep the hands visible to your audience, which helps to engender trust.  Perhaps the most important aspect of your hand gestures, and one worth practicing prior to an interview, is that most of your gestures should be made with the palms up.

Palms down gestures are directive. They are absolute and therefore are perfect when you are saying 'no'.  They indicate that you are decided on your point and are not open to engaging the input of others.  In contrast, palms up gestures are collaborative.  They are more open, highlighting more of a willingness to work with the other party.  This makes them perfect for interview situations where you would like your interviewer to see you as a good fit for the existing team.  Palms up gestures will help you be viewed more favourably and should therefore be the more frequent gesture.  You may have stories highlighting your decisiveness where a palms down gesture will help to highlight that ability, but most stories will serve you better accompanied by gestures where the palms are visible.

These three tips will serve you well in your next interview should you practice adopting them.  As you review your stories, don't just practice the words you plan to use, but practice also the body language that will accompany them.  The more aligned your body language is to your verbal message, the more believable and credible that message will be.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Tip Thursday - Marketing

Pitching an idea is infinitely more successful if we come up with something that is memorable.

Daniel Pink, in his book To Sell is Human, outlines six different pitches you can use to sell an idea.

The One-Word Pitch - distill your idea down to one key word that embodies what you are representing.
The Question Pitch - use this to help your audience identify a pain point (that your product addresses - of course!)
The Rhyming Pitch - rhymes are infinitely repeatable. Use sites like to help you come up with yours.
The Subject Line Pitch - Use the subject line of your emails to draw your audience in, to become 'clickable'.
The Twitter Pitch - Make your pitches 120 characters or less to allow others to 'pass it on' more easily.
The Pixar Pitch - Emma Coats, a former story artist at Pixar has 22 story rules. Use her tips and write your pitch by filling in the blanks of her rules.

Use any of the above to help your ideas and messages to stand out, be remembered and acted upon!

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Effects of Emotional State on Influence Success

Research studies have shown a clear connection between the emotional state of the individual and the success of an influence strategy. In these studies, people were either exposed to messages that were designed to induce fear-based emotions or romantic-based emotions.  These emotions were created through short stories and film clips.

Each group was then exposed to advertisements using either social-proof* or scarcity** type messages as their influence strategies. The results? Those people exposed previously to fear-based emotions were more persuaded by the social proof appeals, while those people exposed to romantic-based emotions were more persuaded by influence messages utilizing scarcity and uniqueness.

Interestingly, studies have also shown that not only our buying behaviour but our selling behaviour can be affected by our emotional state.  Jennifer Lerner and her associates set out to determine just this. What they did find was that those individuals in which they induced a feeling of sadness (again, through film clips and essays) were likely to pay more for an item if buying, or to sell it for less.

In fact, compared to the emotionally neutral buyers, sad buyers were willing to pay as much as 30% more for an item, while sad sellers were willing to price items at up to 33% less than emotionally neutral sellers. 

Other studies have been conducted that demonstrate that ANY emotionally charged issue or situation, regardless of whether it is positively or negatively charged, will have a direct ipact and influence on the type and quality of decisions made.

The implications?
  • Consider carefully the placement of advertisements, within magazines etc.  The effectiveness of your ad will be heavily influenced by the article(s) preceding it.  The content of your advertisement would need to shift depending upon whether the articles preceding it were happy or sad, positive or negative in nature.  The emotions that those articles evoke in your audience will have a significant impact on the way in which your advertisement is viewed and, ultimately, how much of your product gets sold.
  • This same consideration should be given to the likely emotional state of your audience, before crafting and framing your communications or requests.  If employees are fearful of the economic situation and stability of the marketplace, then they are more likely to be influenced by messages utilizing the social proof heuristic and will be less responsive to messages that utilize other influence attempts. 
  • You should also give some consideration to how you are feeling - emotionally - before entering into any negotiation process or buying situation.  You are most likely to make the best buying decisions when in a fairly emotionally neutral state. 
  • Recognise that these same elements may influence any decision that we need to make. Our emotional state will serve to make us more or less cautious in our decisions or even influence the length of time it takes us to decide. 
If you have ever found yourself buying something that you didn't want or need, or paying a much higher price for something than you should have - you know you have been influenced through an emotional state.  Just as we have been told repeatedly not to go grocery shopping when hungry, so too must we now consider not going shopping when we're too emotionally charged.  Unless, of course, we won't mind the impact on our pocket-book!!

*social proof - evidence that others are 'doing' it, celebrity endorsements fall into this category.  In general, we look to others behaviour to guide our own.

**Scarcity - the 'only 50 left' strategy.  If something is in limited supply or going quickly we may be more inclined to purchase it for ourselves.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Tip Thursday - Body Language

An interesting body language 'tell' to watch for is what is called 'Eye Blocking Behaviour'. When
someone rubs their eye or places their hand in front of their eyes, this is often a sign of discomfort, disbelief or disagreement. They are distancing themselves from you or the conversation in general by creating a barrier between you and them.

This behaviour is so hard wired into us that people born blind will cover their eyes when they hear things they don't like. This is a behaviour coming from our unconscious, driven by our limbic brain, so it is a good 'tell' to take note of. Know that if someone is agreeing to help you with something, but are engaging in this behaviour, that they are not very happy about doing it. Either respond to their discomfort by letting them off the hook or ensure that you reward and thank them appropriately for helping you out!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Dream Less, but Expect More!

We have all been told, on numerous occasions I'm sure, to dream big, that if we can't dream it we can't achieve it.  The cold hard truth is though... Dreaming doesn't make it so.  It turns out that thinking about what we want in life doesn't get us closer to achieving more. However, becoming clear about we 'expect'... will.

The Placebo Effect in medicating and treating individuals is well documented. A patient administered a sugar pill, if they expect it to reduce their pain, will typically experience pain relief. The patient expected the 'drug' they were receiving to be effective, to a certain degree, in reducing their pain and therefore they experienced that degree of pain relief.

In a well-known study students were divided into two groups; high and low IQ. Only teachers were informed which group each student was in. The students knew nothing of the division. After eight months, the High IQ group was performing significantly better than the Low IQ group. However, unbeknownst to the teachers, the students had been randomly assigned to the two groups. The groups actually had no bearing on the actual IQ of the students. Remember also, the students knew nothing about the assigned groups and yet their performance suffered due to the arbitrary classification. The determining factor? The expectations of the teachers themselves. The teachers 'knew' which group each student belonged to and therefore had different expectations for each that unconsciously influenced the results and achievements of each. 

This is big. Think about it for a minute. What you expect of/from others influences what you will likely receive from them. Pretty powerful stuff!

Take this concept and apply it back to the concept of your dreams. We all know that our dreams aren't true. We don't really expect them to occur, we don't hold them as a certainty. Is it little wonder that we don't achieve them? Instead, we have to reframe our dreams as certainties. We have to 'expect' them to occur if we want to truly experience and achieve them. It is through these unshakeable expectations that we continue to persevere, that we continue to move forward. It is this certainty of expectation that helps us to cope with frustration and disappointment along the way. We may experience setbacks but we are better poised to keep going and pushing through when we expect that things will turn around. 

I see this phenomena play out often with coaching clients. It is not unusual for people to express a desire for more, better or different in their lives. However, when questioned about their expectations I find that, although they would like or hope for better, they don't truly 'expect' things to change. As a result, they don't tend to engage in the behaviours necessary to drive the change they want. If you don't expect that your efforts will make a difference, you'll be hard pressed to expense the time and energy into those efforts.

Our expectations are critical to our experienced outcomes. Note that expectancy is a non-conscious process. It is an unconscious prediction that manifests in the conscious mind as a certainty. Hoping for something does not convey that same sense of certainty that expectancy does, therefore you do not feel the same compulsion to invest in making it happen. Expectations drive attitudes and behaviours which, in turn, lead you to engage in actions that drive your desired (expected) results. Hoping or wishing for something does not generate a call to action and therefore you tend to remain safely ensconced in your armchair, surrounding by those unfulfilled hopes.

How does this look?

  • You hope to win a lottery some day but you expect to spend the rest of your life earning $50,000.00 per year. Your current salary? $50,000.00. Typically, research shows us that we each tend to earn the salary that we truly expect that we are worth, that we expect is possible for us.

  • You want that new promotion, but you expect the boss to say no. You're not surprised when that is what they say.

  • You want to lose weight and keep it off but you expect that you will always have to struggle with your weight and yo-yo dieting. Sure enough, you somehow manage to regain those 10 pounds you just lost
Sound familiar?

The difference between wanting or hoping for something and what our true expectations are is the key differential in what we truly experience and receive in our lives. If you truly want something different then you need to build the expectations that will support that desire. Challenge your limiting beliefs and existing expectations, replacing them with those that support those desires and dreams. Otherwise... they will continue to remain simply hopes and dreams, as ethereal and unreachable as the clouds drifting by outside of my window.

In a nutshell...we GET what we EXPECT.  

Was this blog post insightful, interesting and helpful for you?  I expect so!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tip Thursday - Communication

Take care with the way in which you program thoughts into your brain. We often make statements creating a belief that two statements are mutually exclusive - when they needn't be.

For instance, telling yourself that you'd "Rather be happy than wealthy" establishes the belief that you can be one or the other and not both. Your brain then will help you make one true while denying the possibility of the second.

Any time you catch yourself stating that you'd rather be 'X' than 'Y' stop and examine the statement. If you'd actually like to have or be both then say that. Don't create limitations by creating untrue either/or statements. Instead, ensure you program yourself with the best possibilities not just half of 'em!

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Law of Attraction vs. the Law of Action

Ever since the movie and book "The Secret", there has been a surge in books, courses, programs and articles focused on helping you to attract MORE into your life.  More of whatever it is that you desire and want.  The basic premise of the Law of Attraction is, in short, distilled down to two basic statements.
  1. like attracts like
  2. you get what you focus on
Like Attracts Like.  If you want to attract more upbeat, energetic and positive people into your life then you need to start being more upbeat, energetic and positive.  You want more joy, start by being more joyful.  Intuitively, this makes sense.  Surround yourself with more of what you want.

You Get What you Focus on.  Again, this makes a logistical kind of sense.  If I focus my energies and activities around the achievement of something, then it increases the liklihood of my bringing it into my life.  However, many have taken the word 'focus' to imply mental energy only.  They create story boards of their wants, post pictures, and send statements of their wants out to the universe...and then sit back and wait for 'things' to start happening.

Many practitioners and gurus of the the Law of Attraction ebooks and programs would have you believe that these actions alone are sufficient to attract to you what you want.  Yep... spend your money on their programs, sit back on the couch, visualize what you want and...  Nothing!  Why not?  Others have seemingly become wealthy using these techniques.  Their storyboards worked.  Posting a picture of a million dollar bill worked to attract more money into their life.  Why isn't it working for you?

Because... you're missing half of the equation!  Certainly positive change starts with creating a positive mindset and vision.  I'm a strong advocate in the need to create a clear vision of what you want to attract and achieve in your life.  The clearer and stronger the piciture, the better motivator it is.  Therefore the Law of Attraction used properly, becomes a motivational force.

However, to truly realize those visions and fulfill those dreams, you need to couple the Law of Attraction with the Law of Action!  You cannnot affect change, bring something different into your life, if you do not DO different.  What are you willing to do in order to bring more of what you envision to you?

Examine any of the stories behind those that have 'attracted' great wealth, happiness and positive outcomes to themselves and you will discover that each person worked at making it happen.  However, the Law of Action doesn't sell.  We're already working hard.  Working 'more' is not what we're looking for.  We're interesting in getting more, not doing more.  The appeal of the Law of Attraction is the belief that 'thinking' alone will make it so.  That we can make time for... but... Attraction without Action will fail every time.

The true secret behind The Secret though is that once you being to create your vision and storyboards, once you begin to clarify what you want to attract and manifest into your life, you are already implementing the Law of Action.  You are beginning to work your plan, by creating one.  As the vision takes hold and excites you, you will find yourself taking more actions leading you in the direction of your vision.  As you do, you begin achieving more of what you desire, motivating you to continue engaging in the behaviours needed to take you further along the path. 

It doesn't 'feel' like work?  Of course not!  Doing something we love and enjoy never does and perhaps that's the truly magical component, the true 'key' to wealth and happiness...building our lives around what gives us real joy and pride... the rest seems to follow on its own

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Tip Thursday - Body Language

Scientists have identified what they are referring to as the 'Not Face'. This is the expression that
everyone exhibits (across genders, cultures and even with speakers of American Sign Language) when they are communicating 'Not' interested, do 'Not' agree, do 'Not' support this.

Not only is this an expression you will make unconsciously to puncture your 'not' statement, but it is also the expression you make when you are merely thinking 'not'. Watch for this cue at your next business meeting to help you determine whether your colleagues are on board with your idea... or not!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Staying Relevant, a Personal Imperative

Businesses face the continuous challenge of having to remain relevant in the marketplace.  They must
continue to provide products and services that the market wants and needs which means they must be constantly investing time and focus to assessing the future. It is only by reviewing possible future needs that they can prepare today to meet those potential needs The better equipped they are to satisfy those needs, the more successful they will be.

You and I are not so different. We must also look ahead to the future and gauge what skills and abilities the business marketplace will need and prepare ourselves to deliver them. We must assure our relevancy to ensure our employability. Staying relevant is an imperative for each of us if we are to future-proof ourselves for tomorrow's workplace.
We must all Learn for a living if we hope to continue to Earn a living
The continual challenge we all face is to find ways to keep pushing our sell-by-date so that it exceeds our 'need' to work. We must therefore be constantly refreshing our skills but, not just any skills.  We must become more strategic in the skills we grow.

Organizations will typically invest willingly in developing our skills to fill gaps they have today. However, this may not serve us in the future if those skills will one day be redundant. Our time, energy and focus will better serve us by developing skills that will also be relevant in the marketplace of the future.

In ensuring we remain relevant, we must rely on ourselves. We must become ruthlessly selfish in our pursuit of development that will serve us not just in the short-term, but in the long-term also.  We can't make the mistake of solely focusing on increasing our marketability today, if it doesn't serve us tomorrow also. Focusing on building and strengthening our Career Path will not serve us in the long-term if that career is housed within an unsustainable industry. It doesn't matter how far or fast we climb if we are part of a dying industry.

Though there are many tips and hints out there to help you to future-proof yourself, here are a few to get you started...

  1. Develop and maintain a diverse network of contacts.  You want to have connections that span across industries and roles, people that will help you to keep on top of trends and changes in the workplace. You want a variety of opinions and insights to better gauge your best options.
  2. Remain open to new experiences. Though trying anything new expands and stretches us in some way, be more selective. Use your limited time wisely. Not all new experiences will stretch you in a way that prepares you for the future. You may have to actively search out those opportunities that not just allow you to experience new things relative to today's marketplace, but for those that also prepare you for tomorrow's.
  3. Constantly explore what lies ahead. Don't get caught up in putting your head down. You need to continuously explore what's happening in your industry, what's happening in your role. What are the trends, what are the issues, what are the future needs, what are the gaps? Knowing the answers to some of these questions allows you to build capabilities today that will serve you (and others) tomorrow.
  4. Be a digital native. Digital technologies are only going to continue to become more and more integrated into the work that we do. It is important to stay up to date on the latest digital strategies, tools and technologies. 
  5. Personal Brand. Having a recognisable and defined brand helps to draw others to you. Knowing who you are, what you can do and what you stand for creates a trust in your deliverables and helps separate you from the masses.
  6. Leadership skills. Even the marketplace of tomorrow will require leaders, however technology will be changing how we must lead and communicate with others. Leaders will need to possess a dexterity in working with diversity (different countries, cultures, genders, ages) as technology breaks down physical borders. Leaders will need to be more open and transparent in their styles as they create networked teams that collaborate virtually.
It is far too easy for us to get caught up in the work of today that we fail to look forward to what 'work' will be available for us down the road. However, it is those that take the time to look forward that are best situated to ensure their employability. Staying relevant is not a task left to later or to someone else. It is, and should be, a personal imperative and priority. Look forward to what is coming and prepare for it today. Your future self will thank you.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Tip Thursday - Personal Development

There is a big difference between Complaining and Problem Solving. Venting about issues -
constantly - keeps you focused on the problem and not on moving forward in creating a solution.

Complaining implies a lack of power or control over the situation that is dis-empowering. Take charge of your attitude and cut out the complaining, redirecting your energies toward finding solutions that serve.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Talk the Journey, Not the Destination

Communications are a tricky thing at the best of times. 
Attempting to integrate technology into our communications serves to influence us in ways that we may not realize. We often hear that our time-starved audiences will not read emails of more than a paragraph, necessitating us being succinct in our written communications. Add in the popularity of texting and twitter and many come to believe that the best messages are those reduced to mere sound bites.

We hear so often that people's time and attention spans are in such short supply that we need to cut our communications to the chase, getting to the point as quickly as possible. I see this often when reviewing client's proposed speeches, where their talking points are more directed and their statements simply a sharing of final thoughts. In essence, people think that addressing the 'time and attention' issues are best given priority and they therefore focus on sharing their conclusions. The problem; shorter is not necessarily better.

What is lacking in people's messages today is a description of the journey. This is where the true meaning and learning in the messages is. What were the ups and downs, the trials, the tribulations? What did you experience that I can learn from? What were the hurdles you overcame that I can relate to? What were the fears you managed, the challenges you faced, the work-arounds you created?

By focusing on shortening the message to avoid 'losing' your audience you have lost the point. You have failed to engage me, connect with me or make me care. The journey is where your audience begins to understand why they should care, why what you have to share matters, why they should listen. People's attention spans may be short, which doesn't mean your messages need to be short but, rather, that they need to matter. Let people know why what you're sharing matters to them.

Instead of focusing on condensing your message into sound bites, focus on delivering your message in a more compelling way. Deliver it in a way that draws your audience in and makes them want to listen.  Beyond ensuring that you highlight what's in it for them, use techniques that capture the minds and hearts of your audience.
  • Variability.  Vary your vocal speed, your volume and your inflection to draw your audience in. Switching things up keeps you from sounding monotone. If you sound boring the audience tends to think your content is also.
  • Pauses.  Use pauses to help vary your speed but also to punctuate what you are saying. Pause before and after you make important points to ensure your audience is listening fully to the point and has a chance to store it appropriately, helping them to remember it. Use pauses to direct attention to you and what you are saying or to build some anticipation and suspense.
  • Gestures. Research clearly shows that speakers who use gestures are viewed more favourably and their content is remembered better. If they like you they will listen and having the audience remember your content is typically the point of giving a speech in the first place.
  • Eye Contact. Engage your audience by using your eye contact to connect with them and draw them in. Look at your audience to have them feel part of the conversation. 
  • Stories. Use stories, analogies and examples that help make your content more relatable and memorable. Give the audience a mental image they can take away with them that moves them and creates meaning.
People may be being pulled in multiple directions, they may be overloaded and stressed out, but they are far more capable of listening then we give them credit for.  Your job as a speaker is not to shorten and dumb down your messages but to work at your delivery, making it more interesting. Funnily enough, the more interesting you are the more interested your audience will prove to be. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Tip Thursday - Public Speaking

Using quotes in your speech is a way of reinforcing your ideas using a 'second voice'. This is infinitely more powerful than you simply repeating your key point. Quotes often serve to provide a concise and memorable phrasing of an idea that increases the take-away impact of your speech. If you are going to use a quote though make sure you get the quote right! The source should be a well-known credible expert but try to avoid over-used quotes that everyone knows. Quotes tend to work best in the body of your speech as a way of offering reinforcement to a point you are making. Although you may open your speech with a poignant or powerful quote, I would advise against ending your speech with one. Make the last words your audience hears from you be your own!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Challenging Beliefs to Unlock Creativity

As a Manager it can prove challenging to get your team to think of new approaches and ways of operating. So much of the regular day-to-day grind seems to drill in the 'this is the way we do things here' type of thinking that asking for out of the box thinking can prove daunting.

We've heard that change isn't easy. Rarely do we explore why. Primarily, change requires shifting our mindsets which proves problematical because they are largely held unconsciously. To change we must modify approaches based on beliefs that we hold as truths, which is responsible for creating the rigidity of our thinking. We hold truths as absolutes, meaning they are largely unquestioned. We hold truths and beliefs about...

  • how work gets done
  • how people should think
  • how people should interact with one another
  • science, technology, human nature, business, religion...
Everything we say and do is built upon our beliefs, our expectations of what works, why and how it works and beliefs concerning the application of that information we hold to be true. But, what if we challenged one or two of those beliefs? What if one or two of the beliefs we hold were... wrong?

The impact of shifting only one or two beliefs would be huge. Other beliefs, that are based on or dependent upon that first belief being true, would also be called into question. Challenging only one belief would open up avenues and opportunities of change. Shifting only one belief could lead the way to creating new approaches and ways of thinking. Certainly questioning even one belief would challenge the rigidity of our current thinking.
Often it is our existing beliefs that are standing in the way of change. We need to challenge those beliefs to open a new door of opportunity.
To begin the mental shift necessary to unlock your creativity you need to start by acknowledging that a different outcome or reality is possible. This acceptance allows the potential for a shift in thinking to occur.  Without it your mind remains closed to a different way of thinking. Allowing for just the possibility that 'different' or 'other' might exist is a critical first step.

Interestingly, even the process of thinking about how your thinking and belief structures are built begins to shifting your thinking. Opening yourself to accepting that some of your beliefs may not be absolute creates the possibility for new opportunities to take root.

If you want your people to become better at recognising opportunities, to being more creative in problem-solving, in finding different solutions, you need to begin by getting them to challenge some of their current thinking beforehand. Start by getting them to think about the structure and routines in their day that might be contributing to cementing their belief systems and stifling their creativity. Open their thinking by getting them to switch up their routines.
  • take a different route to work
  • sit in a different seat at team meetings
  • reorganize their office layout
  • do something different at lunch
  • eat a new food for dinner instead of 'it's Wednesday so we have spaghetti'
Switching even small elements of your daily routine gets your brain shifting out of auto pilot and becoming more aware. After all, you can't take advantage of opportunities you don't see. Once your team's brains are primed to begin seeing possibilities and potential get the them to begin asking the critical question... What if this wasn't true?

This is the question that opens up those new doors by challenging assumptions, beliefs and truths. By questioning one belief, by asking what the impact is of it not being true, you create a domino effect of possibilities. Though all may not play out, you are likely to find some that are worth pursuing, that create the very possibility you needed.

To unlock the creative talents of both you and your team, begin by getting your collective brains off of autopilot by challenging some of your beliefs. Shifting just one belief or 'truth' may be all it takes to unlock a host of new approaches and possibilities. True change doesn't happen one person at a think but, rather, one thought at a time.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Tip Thursday - Body Language

In order to engage someone in more productive conversation, especially on a topic that may be
difficult or challenging, consider where you are going to sit, relative to them.

Sitting directly across from them will feel confrontational, creating more of an 'us' versus 'them' dynamic. Instead, consider sitting on the side of the table that is kitty-corner to them.

This position diminishes the confrontational feel and makes the conversation feel more collaborative. Changing the environment can help change the mood, which may be all that is needed to open the dialogue.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Why Ditching 'Plan B' May be the Best Plan

We have all been taught that we should always have a 'Plan B', a backup plan in place, just in case 'Plan A' fails.  On the surface, this advice seems both sensible and reasonable.  There is an inherent logic to the need to have a fallback position in the event that things don't go as planned.

However, in challenging this assumption, researchers are beginning to discover that having a backup plan may have an influence on the potential success of your Plan A.

Having a Plan B may be what prevents you from achieving your Plan A

Researchers Jihae Shin (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Katherine Milkman (University of Pennsylvania) found that people in their study who had a back-up plan for obtaining a reward, if their performance on an assigned task was insufficient for obtaining it, performed significantly worse on the task than those who had no alternative means of obtaining the reward.  

In another study, conducted at the University of Zurich (Christopher Napolitano, Alexandra Freund), it was found that backup plans altered the way people pursued their goals; backup plans served to undermine participant's motivation. Having an alternative, a fallback position, led participants to push less toward the achievement of their primary goal. 
"If you have a backup plan, then you've already admitted defeat" Henry Cavill (aka Superman)
We generally make backup plans in an effort to manage uncertainty. There is less risk to us in going after Plan A if there is alternative waiting for us in the wings. We lose less turn-around time if we have another option to pursue, should our first option prove unattainable. However, the question researchers are asking, and one that we should consider, is... If you prepare for failure, are you more likely to fail?

In looking at this question more fully researchers agree that there is a difference between goals that primarily require effort and those involving luck. Goals having a significant number of factors that are outside of our direct control (require luck) to achieve will definitely benefit from having a backup plan, or two. However, those goals relying solely on our own effort should be approached with an 'all in' mentality, with no alternative plans in sight. The mere act of thinking through a backup plan may be enough to influence us to put less effort into achieving our goals.  Instead, think only of the primary goal, that it's Plan A or bust, to achieve it.
"There's no reason to have a plan B because it distracts from plan A"  Will Smith
The need is to therefore become more strategic about how and when we use Plan B planning. Consider whether the goal you are pursuing is driven primarily by your own effort. If so, ditch the Plan B mentality and go all-in pursuing Plan A. You are far more likely to experience success by going all-in.

For those that still want and need a safety net of sorts, consider outsourcing the Plan B planning. In business this may mean you have an A-team and a B-team, where the role of the B-team is to plan an alternative route/option in the event that the A-team fails to achieve the objective. For individuals you may want to leave the B-planning to a parent, friend, spouse or coach, while directing all you have to your primary plan. Plan B exists but it is outside of your mind and focus and therefore does not have the same influence over your thinking or actions.

Operating without a net may be scary at first but you just might discover that it was your Plan B thinking that was holding you back from achieving all that you could.